#TBR Challenge 2024

I’ll be participating in the #TBRChallenge from Wendy the Super Librarian once again!

Themes for this year are:
January 17, Once More With Feeling: Territory by Emma Bull.
February 21, Furry Friends: The Wider Worlds of Jim Henson, edited by Jennifer C. Garlen and Anissa M. Graham.
March 20, Not in Kansas Anymore: Was by Geoff Ryman.
April 17, No Place Like Home: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin.
May 15, With a Little Help From My Friends: My Dear Watson by L.A. Fields.
June 19, Bananapants!: Cathy’s Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233 by Sean Stewart.
July 17, What a Wonderful World: The White Mosque: A Memoir by Sofia Samatar.
August 21, Everyday Heroes: Dancing Bearfoot by Elva Birch.
September 18, Drama!: Blackout by Connie Willis.
October 16, Spooky (Gothic): All Clear by Connie Willis.
November 20, It Came From the 1990s!: Robert A. Heinlein : A Reader’s Companion by J. Daniel Gifford and James Gifford.
December 18, It’s a Party!: TBA.

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Welcome to Refuge!

This is the official website of writer Victoria Janssen, author of A Place of Refuge, is science fiction #hopepunk following three former guerillas who lose their fight against a fascist empire but escape to a utopian planet. They’re figuring out what’s next with the aid of pastries, therapy, and other people. A Place of Refuge is now available in an omnibus edition with extras. New! Dissenter Rebellion: The Rattri Extraction, a Refuge prequel.

Victoria is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association and serves on the Romance Steering Committee.

You can also find these novellas at Goodreads, StoryGraph, and LibraryThing.

Email: victoriajanssen@victoriajanssen.com.

Social Media:
Goodreads.
Bluesky.
Romancelandia at Mastodon.
Wandering Shop at Mastodon.
Tumblr.
Facebook Author Page.

Last update: 01 October 2023.

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My May Reading Log

Fiction:
At the Feet of the Sun by Victoria Goddard follows The Hands of the Emperor and it took me a really long time. This is because it was 806 pages, which I found out when I was done. I’ll try not to spoil too much. It’s immersive and epic (in a literal sense) as Cliopher, left in charge of the world while the Emperor goes adventuring to find his successor and his old friends, ends up also going adventuring, but not intentionally at first. Many characters and themes show up from the first book, as well as a visit to mythological lands that in this world are not so mythological because you can actually go there. Cliopher has had dreams of being noted in the mythic history of his people since childhood, and a lot of this book involves him working on that goal; also, the emperor shows up again, and new aspects of their relationship are deeply explored. I enjoyed this a lot. If you’re looking for a romantic asexual character, you will find one in this book.

Chaotic Apéritifs by Tao Wong turned out to be second in a series, but I don’t think it’s necessary to read the first one to understand this one. It’s a fairly brief novella about a magical restaurant with both supernatural and mundane guests. A lot of the text involves a mage/chef cooking very assiduously, while using very little magic. The plot is extremely low-key; I felt the biggest moment of tension was when the chef was worried something would overcook while he was paying attention to something else. If you’re looking for a soothing read, I found this very soothing. Also, it made me hungry.

Snuff by Terry Pratchett is the last of the City Watch novels, my favorites of the Discworld series. Sam Vimes, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork Watch and reluctant Duke, is dragged to the country on vacation by his wife Sybil. While enjoying spending time with his small son Young Sam, who’s developed a vast scientific interest in excrement from different species, Sam is as usual alert for Crime, and pretty quickly finds some. Like many of the Watch novels, this one addresses the way humans treat other sentients and what might be done about it, in this case Goblins, which are pretty much despised by all. I felt the route to getting respect for Goblins was a bit forced but I didn’t mind all that much, since I was reading this knowing there were no more books in this sub-series and it was the last new one I would ever read. That sounds like it was a sad experience, but it wasn’t. I love Sam Vimes and his strong morality and his righteous indignation at the many wrongs in the world.

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#TBR Challenge – With a Little Help From My Friends: My Dear Watson by L.A. Fields

May 15, With a Little Help From My Friends: My Dear Watson by L.A. Fields only somewhat fits this month’s theme, as the friendships are complex. It’s narrated by the second Mrs. John Watson. She explores a queer relationship between gay Holmes and bisexual Watson throughout the Doylist canon, in sequence. I confess this bored me; I have already read the canonical stories and was hoping for more than having them reiterated, even through a new lens.

The most interesting parts were the small sections that take place in 1919, after Holmes’ retirement, when he and Watson haven’t seen each other in years. “I don’t believe I am am jealous–I’m a modern woman, and I knew of my husband’s flexible nature before I married him–….” However, I felt those sections were far shorter than I wanted them to be.

I don’t think this book was for me!

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My April Reading Log

Fiction:
The Hands of the Emperor (Lays of the Hearth-Fire Book 1) by Victoria Goddard was over 900 pages of fantasy about creating a good government and having your family recognize your achievements and figuring out how to incorporate your culture into a dominant social paradigm. I don’t think it needed to be quite that long; I am not fond of having the same events narrated to different people at different points in the narrative, and the same issues addressed, unless the repetition is presented in much more different ways. But that’s a small complaint. Having the point of view character repeatedly come up against the same issues with his family and friends is realistic, since he doesn’t find a way to solve the issues for a while, and he’s been separated from them for his whole adult life. I was very engaged for almost all of the book regardless and was a little bereft when it ended. The plot concerns the government of Zunidh, formerly part of a magical empire that collapsed. Cliopher Mdang, born and raised far from the centers of power, is the only Islander to work in the Emperor’s palace, as the Emperor’s secretary and head of the bureaucracy. Cliopher, nicknamed Kip, is devoted to his lord and also devoted to making government that will serve the people instead of the princes, and he’s really good at it. Meanwhile, the Emperor is under great emotional strain from his long tenure and magical constraints; all of his food and everything he touches is subject to complex ritual taboos and cleansing rituals, and he is kept distanced from even those he works with closely. The first section involves Kip convincing Tor, the Emperor, to take a vacation, which he does along with Kip, his valet, and various guards including the head and second-in-command of the guards. I loved that it’s a bunch of middle-aged men who aren’t sure what to do with themselves on vacation. Tor begins to shift more power to Kip in preparation for retirement, which leads to Kip finally having to deal with having left his family and culture behind and changed out of their recognition. If you want something long and immersive, with a happy ending, I can recommend this.

The Return of Fitzroy Angursell by Victoria Goddard follows immediately after the end of The Hands of the Emperor and follows the titular character on a lighthearted first-person narrative Adventure in which he’s reunited with old friends and re-discovers many things about himself which he’d lost. I’m deliberately avoiding plot spoilers, so there’s not much to say other than I enjoyed this quite a bit.

Hearts on Thin Ice by Katie Kennedy was a romance between a hockey player and an interior designer, both of whom have tragedy in their pasts that felt a bit outsized to me based on the cartoon cover. Nick Sorensen has just recovered from a plane crash in which his entire friend group was killed; he’s now with a new team and has an apartment holding one armchair and a mattress on the floor. Alyssa Compton spent part of her young adolescence homeless with her mother and brother, and is devoted to making homes for others, though her current boss takes advantage of her employees. Nick’s coach pressures him to both make his apartment “normal” and go to therapy, which he sorely needs. Alyssa and Nick slowly realize how much they have in common, and Nick begins to face the enormity of his losses while dealing with survivor’s guilt. I was engaged throughout, though I felt the secondary characters were bland and the romantic issues towards the end frustrated me because I am not a fan of misunderstandings caused by a lack of communication.

Castle of Horror by Barbara Hambly is a short novelette sequel to Bride of the Rat God involving a possibly haunted mansion/castle in Reno, Nevada, and a truly haunted boarding house filled with ghostly cats. Norah’s sister-in-law is not in the movie but is accompanying her current paramour, who needs to be in Reno to obtain a divorce. I enjoyed the silent film-era setting that this time included a Black movie filming at the same location, with some of the same actors, as the Colossus film production; Norah is writing scenarios for both.

Spoilers ahead:
Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R. F. Kuang is excellent but does not have a happy ending; the empire is brought down by dying in the process of destroying the center of power, which makes a lot of sense thematically but was painful to read. The characters were, I felt, subordinate to the anti-colonialist plot, but I couldn’t help wanting the central characters to survive and thrive by overcoming the colonialism in which they were trapped despite knowing that wasn’t the point of the book. There’s a lot in there to think about.

Mortal Follies by Alexis Hall, like other Hall books I’ve read, has a strong narrative voice, in this case an omniscient narrator who is somewhat unreliable and who also, occasionally, interferes in the plot and refers to future events. On the surface, it’s historical fantasy that seems very Regency Romance, but some characters are quirkier than they appear, the romance is Sapphic, and the fantastic element is more Classical mythology than fairy folk (though it has those, too). This was a fun book and I very much enjoyed seeing how Hall played with point of view.

My April #TBR Challenge book was The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin.

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#TBR Challenge – No Place Like Home: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

I don’t live in New York City, but I’m close enough and I’ve been there enough that I felt The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (2020) worked for this month’s theme, No Place Like Home. The book expands on the story “The City Born Great” from Jemisin’s 2018 collection, How Long ’til Black Future Month?; in altered form, that story serves as a prologue.

The conceit is that cities will sometimes, rarely, achieve sentience. When they do, creepy other-dimensional predators await to battle and often destroy them. In the world of the book, for example, New Orleans’ birth and then loss to the predatory manifestation is represented by Hurricane Katrina. It’s a cool idea, but I found the end of the book a little unsatisfying. Presumably the sequel, The World We Make (2022) gives a greater sense of resolution to the story.

When the initial avatar of New York City is incapacitated, the city manifests in five New Yorkers who anthropomorphize the five boroughs on New York City, plus one more avatar, and they must work together to fight (explicitly) Lovecraftian horrors and evils such as racism, sexual abuse, and white supremacy; Jemisin stated some of the manifestations symbolize gentrification. Each of the avatars has their own special ability, and made me wonder if this book would be suitable to be turned into a comic or a video game.

I’d be interested to see if there are any academic studies of the fictional sub-genre in which real-life cities exhibit magical sentience. In reading this, I was reminded of the following books I read years ago, that give magical life to London, though not in the same way as Jemisin’s work: The City’s Son by Tom Pollock (2012) and the series beginning with A Madness of Angels: Or The Resurrection of Matthew Swift by Kate Griffin (2009).

The City We Became won a British Science Fiction Association award and a Locus Award.

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My March Reading Log

Fiction:
The Frame-Up by Gwenda Bond is a paranormal heist novel set in contemporary Kentucky. Danielle Poissant is the daughter of a renowned art thief whom she helped send to prison, which led to her being shut out of the world of criminals with magic in which she’d grown up. Wracked by guilt at betraying her family (it’s complicated), ever since then she’s been working as a sort of one-person-and one-dog “Leverage” team, retrieving funds from scummy people and splitting them with the original victim – while not using her magical gift for forging paintings. But then, of course, she’s dragged back into the world for One Last Time by an old partner of her mother’s. The romance element is minor, but I felt like there was just enough to spice up the heist plot. This was a lot of fun, and dog fans will love Dani’s collie Sunflower, who is a Very Good Girl.

Due Diligence: Settling Affairs (Clorinda Cathcart’s Circle Book 20) by L. A. Hall and Succession: Marriages & Funerals (Clorinda Cathcart’s Circle Book 21) by L. A. Hall continue to be very soothing reading as things are set right via clever contrivances and newer characters become more active.

Demon Daughter by Lois McMaster Bujold is the latest Penric and Desdemona novella, exploring what happens when a six year old child on a Roknari ship, Otta, acquires an almost brand-new demon/elemental from a rat…and accidentally sets some things on fire. The rest of the story follows Penric, his wife Nikys, and their family as they take care of the stranded Otta and Otta decides what she wants. Family is more complicated than it appears on the surface.

Nonfiction:
Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent by Judi Dench and Brendan O’Hea grew out of a series of interviews O’Hea intended for archival purposes, about Dench’s memories of all her Shakespeare roles. After her grandson overhead them talking, the idea arose to turn their talks into a book, which was a great idea. I enjoyed reading this so very much I didn’t want it to end, and now I’ve realized I should probably find a production of Cymbeline and watch it, as well as the rest of the Henry plays. This is a chatty book (since it originated as actual chatting between old friends) that also is supremely informative about how this particular actor interpreted her parts, and her philosophy on the art of acting, and what she learned from her various mentors. I loved that she would sometimes say she wished she’d play a certain part differently if she did it now. There’s also a fair few anecdotes about productions and working with different directors and actors. If you’re into theatre, or into Shakespeare, or just interested in an entertaining person talking, definitely check this out.

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge is the sort of nonfiction which intersperses selected summations and quotes from memoirs and diaries with the census and labor statistics, so it was more of an armchair journey than an academic slog. I thought I would be most interested in the Edwardian material but it turned out I was more fascinated by the slow decrease and eventual near-disappearance of servanting as a lifelong career and social class; I also was intrigued by specialized modern agencies that provide factotums and butlers to the very rich, or for special occasions. I want to read more about that; let me know if you have any recommendations. Someone should write a contemporary with a butler protagonist, perhaps falling in love with a bodyguard or a chef.

Fanfiction:
They’re Gonna Give You Hell by unlimitedInk is an epic Mandalorian farce that also has some important found family and leadership themes. Shortly after dropping off Grogu with Luke Skywalker, Din Djarin missed him painfully and goes to mope around Tatooine. I’m not sure how much to spoil of this, but I’ll just say a swathe of different Mandalorian sects become involved in trying to figure out who will lead them and where they will go, a couple of unexpected sentiences are revealed, more than one Armourer shows up, and Boba Fett is grumpy. If you are a Bo Katan fan, don’t read this one.

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair by tigriswolf is a very sweet Winter Soldier story; shortly after freeing himself from Hydra, he encounters an asthmatic child who’s run away from abuse and immediately becomes protective, which leads to him slowly recovering himself and learning to be a person again, while putting the child first. He and his adoptive daughter make their own family and make a home; only then is able to bring Steve Rogers back into his lift.

Dark Side of the Moon by imogenbynight is a Supernatural AU in which Dean Winchester and Castiel Novak are astronauts. Dean, an engineer, is on the moon when an unthinkable tragedy happens and he needs rescue; Castiel is part of the rescue crew. Aside from being able to travel back and forth to the moon without orbital constraints, this is a somewhat realistic space story, with some spooky parts in the middle.

An Ever-Fixed Mark by AMarguerite is an epic Soulmark AU of Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth Bennet’s soulmark reads “Fitzwilliam.” And she marries Colonel Fitzwilliam, who in this story is terrific, but fair warning, he dies of a wound, and then, slowly, Elizabeth comes to realize she a second happy marriage might be possible. I enjoyed this a lot and did I mention it’s epic? Buckle up, it’s a long ride in a bumpy carriage with lots of intriguing meta examination of Soulmarks and the various ways they could be interpreted.

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#TBR Challenge – Not in Kansas Anymore: Was by Geoff Ryman

My choice for the Not in Kansas Anymore theme is Was by Geoff Ryman (1992), which I feel is perfect because it plays directly with The Wizard of Oz, both book and movie, and the making of the movie as well. There’s no actual fantasy, only historical realism. The fantasy element is what the characters wish they had, or once had and lost long ago.

This book sat on my TBR shelf for so long mostly because I feared it would be depressing. I did, in fact, find this book depressing, and difficult to read. Warnings for child sexual abuse, offstage animal death, suicide.

As with all of Ryman’s work, it’s skillfully written. There are three main threads set in different time periods: first, actor Jonathan, in the late 1980s, has given up a role as the Scarecrow because he is dying of AIDS; instead, he’s trying to locate the historical Dorothy in Kansas, and uses Oz as a visualization with his therapist. In 1875, Dorothy is an orphaned child sent to live with relatives in Kansas after her mother and sibling die from diptheria, where she is abused and suffers in various ways I won’t detail here. Finally, Frances Gumm (Judy Garland) is depicted first as a small child and then during the making of the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, through the eyes of Millie, her fictional makeup artist. The characters are complex; their journeys are exhausting. I think it’s a good novel, but a challenging one. I was not really up for the challenge.

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My February Reading Log

Fiction:
I have belatedly read The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett, and wow did it have a lot more going on than I was expecting even though, this being Pratchett, I should have expected themes such as the What Is the Meaning of Life, What Happens to Us When We Die, and Nothing Can Be Solved Unless People Talk to Each Other. And on top of all that, The Importance of Stories is a major theme. Basically, some rats near Unseen University gain speech and intelligence after eating magical detritus from the wizards’ trash heap; together with Maurice the cat who’s also been Changed, they end up working with a human boy to run a scam in which the rats invade a town and the boy, for a fee, pipes them out of town. The boy and the rats are tired of the scam but they agree to One Last Score…except something is weird about this town. There are no keekees (rats who have not been Changed) yet there’s famine because rats have supposedly eaten all the stored food. This turns out to be a convoluted plot which it takes everyone to figure out, including the story-obsessed mayor’s daughter. Recommended.

Fanfiction:
The Building of the House by kvikindi is set in the X-Men movieverse after X-Men: Apocalypse, and is a terrific interpretation of Peter Maximoff’s speed powers through narrative style. Peter is the pov character and his breathless very very long digressive sentences, skimming along the surface of truths he doesn’t want to admit to himself, are just brilliant. Peter’s finally met his father, who is a grim supervillain; what is he going to do about it?

the wires for empathy by napricot is a slow burn romance and road trip story about The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. They work at finding ways to use super powers for making things better without punching people; replacing destruction with community. It’s great.

stop the world (for a moment) by azurewaxwing for thievinghippo is an ice skating AU of the Chinese show The Untamed, which I haven’t seen in its entirety; I am sure I missed some in-jokes. Set in the modern day, Lan Zhan is a popular erudite figure skating commentator whom the network has unexpectedly paired with motormouthed former skater Wei Ying. The near-opposites turn out to work well together. I particularly enjoyed how they practice together by commenting on other sports.

A Series of Unfortunate Collisions by Scourge_of_Nemo is a Star Wars AU in which bounty hunter reality shows are a thing. Hardscrabble hunter Din Djarin, striving to support his adoptive son Grogu and the children of his covert, only slowly realizes he’s in a slow burn romance with major figure Boba Fett. I always like seeing art from the artist’s side, and I loved that Fennec Shand’s editing skills are highly valued.

My Heart Will Be Your Home by dr_girlfriend is a sweet Avengers AU and Bucky Barnes/Clint Barton romance. Clint had left the spy life behind when he and his wife Bobbi Morse had a child; now divorced, he’s a single father who helps out the Avengers in the midst of an attack. It’s a sweet story about two people with a lot of regrets and pain learning to move forward.

Not a Second Time by FaustianSlip is an epic M.A.S.H. sequel, set during the Vietnam War. B.J. Hunnicutt has not been in touch with Hawkeye Pierce since they left Korea, and he also hasn’t told Hawkeye why. Drama ensues when Hawkeye’s elderly father dies and, overwhelmed by loneliness and loss, he enlists in the Army. Margaret Houlihan tells B.J., who realizes he can’t suppress his feelings any more. This story had a very old school slash feel, with some excellent historical detail, and a lot of same-sex relationships playing out despite the less-welcoming time period.

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#TBR Challenge – Furry Friends: The Wider Worlds of Jim Henson, edited by Jennifer C. Garlen and Anissa M. Graham

The Wider Worlds of Jim Henson, edited by Jennifer C. Garlen and Anissa M. Graham is a collection of essays about various Jim Henson productions. I am huge fan of Henson’s work, but managed never to see Fraggle Rock because I didn’t have HBO; I learned a lot about the show from this book!

Some of the essays, I was surprised to note, treated the worldbuilding in a meta fashion, for instance comparing ways to “read” Fraggle Rock and The Dark Crystal through various lenses, including ecological, postcolonial, or Marxist criticism (but concluding, as makes the most sense, that to interpret them as fantasy narratives is the best method). Another essay whimsically explores the beings of Fraggle Rock realistically as part of an ecosystem. Labyrinth and Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas are also represented in the collection, though not as much as Fraggle Rock.

There’s an essay on The Jim Henson Hour, which I never was able to see in its entirety, that gave me a renewed desire to see the episodes I missed. I especially enjoyed reading more about the Henson Company’s work on Dinosaurs, about which I knew practically nothing despite having seen a few key episodes, and the alien puppets on Farscape, a show I love.

I can see myself revisiting some of these essays as I watch and rewatch Henson’s work, and I continue to feel that he died far too soon.

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My January Reading Log

Fiction:
Roux for Two by Aurora Rey was a cute, lowkey contemporary romance between a fat queer femme and a trans man. Chef Chelsea Boudreaux has just gotten her own show, which will be filmed in the small south Louisiana town she left behind; her career is about to take off and take her places. College academic advisor Bryce Cormier has lived in the same town with his loving family for his whole life and never plans to move anywhere else; he longs for a partner and, eventually, children. Their unspoken high school crushes are revived when Chelsea comes back to town, and friendship turns to attraction turns to a red-hot relationship. Conflict arises, of course, but it’s gentle and resolved by the characters using their words. I enjoyed this a lot and would read more by this author.

My January TBR Challenge book was Territory by Emma Bull.

Fanfiction:
Some Honorable Deed by Maykenfan is a Vorkosiverse Alternate Universe in which Aral Vorkosigan returns to Beta Colony with Cordelia instead of returning to Barrayar after the death of Prince Serg. They’re settled in, Aral’s in therapy, and they’ve banked embryos when Simon Illyan arrives to inform them of the death of Emperor Ezar. Aral becomes Regent, but while some major events adhere to canon, many others don’t. I enjoyed this in the way I usually enjoy AUs, especially the relationships that played out differently due to the branching-off point, and more characters living through the story than in canon. Padma Vorpatril lives, and his relationship with Aral is a delight.

Mutants and Mutants by Ecarden is what I call a “puzzle” story; the author explores how a character from one series, in this case Simon Illyan from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosiverse, might handle the issue of a corrupt organization, the Mutant Response Division, if alone in the Marvel Comics world. As this crossover would never have occurred to me, I’m finding it very interesting! Illyan unceremoniously arrives in a warehouse, accidentally summoned by a young mutant not in control of her powers. From there the story becomes an infiltration procedural of reforming an organization from the inside. Characterization is less a priority than following the steps needed to keep what’s useful while chipping away at anti-mutant prejudice.

Perception Check (Roll for Romance) by kaydeefalls for Prinzenhasserin is a hilarious follow-up to the Dungeons and Dragons movie, in which narrator Edgin keeps running into immaculate paladin Xenk.

A Universe Next Door by aliset is a post Captain America: Civil War series set in Wakanda which I continued reading this month. In the third story, “As He Paints, He is Looking at His Heart” can be read without the previous stories, but is better if you know the setting. There’s some cool speculation about Wakandan art as Steve and Bucky work towards recovery.

The Lost of Winter by Fiona15351 for mazily is set in The Goblin Emperor universe, and follows Thara Celehar after the ending of the most recent book; the plot includes a budding romance and some days in the life.

Anamnesis by linman is for Simon Illyan fans; it’s a collection of missing scenes from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory all relating to the memory loss Simon experiences in that book, and how he adjusts afterwards. If you haven’t read the book, this story probably won’t make sense, but if you have, I found it beautiful.

unless you play it good and right by trell (qunlat) is a Vorkosiverse slash casefic in which Ivan Vorpatril accompanies Byerly Vorrutyer on a mission for ImpSec, while pondering how to tell By that both he and his Jacksonian wife are interested in a romantic relationship if By is also interested. By, of course, is also pining for Ivan but feels he’s now off-limits because he’s married. It all works out great in the end.

The Blood in Your Veins by Aelaer is a Marvel universe alternate universe that sets up the beginning of a Tony Stark/Stephen Strange relationship. Mostly, however, it’s about Hollywood science, being held captive, and then escaping. Set during Tony’s palladium poisoning in Iron Man 2, he’s been captured by the Ten Rings. An assortment of doctors, including pov character Strange, have been kidnapped to keep him alive. Strange is early in his career and is characterized as lonely and socially awkward but still confident in his abilities; he develops connections with the other doctors. Content warning for one upsetting death of an original character.

Our Guard (a docu-holo sponsored by the Coruscant Communications Bureau) by FortinbrasFTW is yet another Star Wars fixit for the events of The Clone Wars. Point of view character Fox, head of the Coruscant Guard, is being followed around by a camera droid when he accidentally causes what he thinks is a disaster but of course is really, really not. I enjoyed how The Force was portrayed in this story as well as the ins and outs of how the war is ended.

the ship in port is the safer one (but it’s not the reason it was made) by KiaraSayre is a direct sequel to the first AU Star Trek movie (with Chris Pine). What happens when a recent cadet is placed in charge of a starship? While their first mission is simple, the many problems a captain must solve are not. This story is all about problem-solving and learning experiences, so I enjoyed it a lot.

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#TBR Challenge – Once More With Feeling: Territory by Emma Bull

Territory by Emma Bull, in the fantasy sub-genre now called Weird West, was published in 2007. I bought it immediately in hardcover because I loved previous books by Bull…but then it sat in the TBR because I wasn’t very interested in the town of Tombstone and the OK Corral, which it seemed the story was about. I am pleased to report that the book is not actually about the OK Corral. Various Earps are everywhere (Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, Jim, etc.) as well as subsidiary pov character Doc Holliday, but I confess I was much more interested in the original characters.

Warning: this post includes plot spoilers. If you do not like plot spoilers, and plan to read this book, click away.

The fantasy elements are slow to emerge. The story is more about the vividly portrayed mining town of Tombstone in 1880, a Stranger Who Comes to Town, and a lot of fascinating women, with swirling tensions surrounding the Earps in the background. The magical element is linked to the stranger, Jesse Fox, and his friend and mentor Chow Lung. The female point of view character, widow Mildred Benjamin, and the women she encounters (Kate Holliday, and several of the Mrs. Earps among them) are what caught my attention, however. I wanted a lot more about them. Jesse is a cipher at first; I didn’t find him interesting until he began bantering with mercurial Chow Lung, and was not pleased when, much later, Lung was killed, leaving Jesse a bit lopsided.

Mildred intrigued me from the start. She works as a typesetter at a local newspaper, where the editor, it’s clear to the reader if not to Mildred, thinks she should be a reporter. After selling a romantic adventure story to a magazine, Mildred researches and writes her first story for the paper; her experiences of receiving a response to her story, and having her first effort at journalism edited, were my favorite scenes in the novel. I also loved seeing her friendship with Mrs. Austerberg, wife of the local shopkeeper, and her growing relationships with other women in the town.

Jesse first denying and finally embracing his magical abilities were a reasonable arc, but I felt the fantasy element as a whole felt vaguely unfinished, possibly because the OK Corral battle, which I had assumed would be the climax of the book, did not happen. It looked to be on the horizon, but seemed an odd omission unless another book or books was planned to follow. I was left slightly unsatisfied overall, but glad that I’d finally gotten around to the book.

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